Rep. Wild spends day in Monroe County
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-7) spent Tuesday in Monroe County, making three stops to learn about the services provided at each location.
Wild paid a visit to East Stroudsburg High School South’s Purple Pantry, which gives donated food and personal care items to students in need.
“If a child needs underwear, socks, toothpaste — there are children that live in cars, and we have cleaning wipes. You can clean yourself. You can brush your teeth. We’ve got it,” said Gwen Jones, the committee chair for the pantry.
Wild called the pantry an “amazing service,” asking, “How do you ever learn if you’re hungry?”
It’s an especially important service for older students, she said, because “I think that idea of them being little kids who we need to take care of disappears, and everybody just assumes they’re OK, but actually they probably have a greater need for nutrition and to keep them in school and make sure that they’re able to learn, so I really applaud you for this initiative.”
Wild presented the school with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for the pantry.
“I’m sorry that it’s even necessary — you know, you go back to the root causes — but thank goodness there are people that are willing to step in and provide for others and care about it.”
At the school, Wild also stopped at the student-run café, which provides work experience, and the sensory room, a calming space for students with special needs.
In the afternoon, Wild met with counselors and other staff at Women’s Resources of Monroe County. (Despite the agency’s name, it serves any victims of domestic or sexual violence.)
Wild asked whether, in light of the #MeToo movement, the number of people reaching out for help increased.
It did, Executive Director Lauren Peterson said, not because more people are experiencing violence, but because people are “feeling that they will be believed by those that they will reach out to.”
After a tour, Wild and Peterson discussed the Victims of Crime Act, which provides about one-third of the income for Women’s Resources.
“We can’t exist without it,” Peterson said.
The money can be used for direct services or access to those services. It can’t cover fundraising costs, for example.
In 2015, about $1.5 billion in VOCA funding was shifted to the federal debt, “but that has never been replenished,” Peterson said.
Peterson would also like to see VOCA funds come from deferred prosecution or civil settlements. Currently, only criminal prosecution produces fees that go toward VOCA.
Earlier in the day, Wild toured parts of the hospital at St. Luke’s Monroe Campus, including a gastroenterology suite under construction. She and hospital management discussed legislative issues, and the shortage of nurses in the area.
Monroe County has about half as many nurses per capita as Pennsylvania, said Donald Seiple Jr., president of the Monroe location.
“This is the No. 1 shortage I hear about,” Wild said, adding that manufacturing also ranks highly.
Wild will hold a town hall at Lafayette College in Easton at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23.